- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 26, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - U.S. Sen. John Boozman touted his work on military issues Tuesday in the first television ad of his re-election bid, prompting his Democratic rival’s campaign to accuse the Republican lawmaker of having a “lackluster” record on veterans.

The 30-second spot airing in the Little Rock and northwest Arkansas markets cites Boozman’s father, who served as a gunner in an Air Force bomber in World War II. Boozman’s campaign is airing the ad on cable and satellite television over the next few weeks, campaign manager Chris Caldwell said.

“Today, Boozman fights to save the nation they risked their lives to defend,” the narrator in the ad says. “That means a strong military, secure borders and destroying ISIS. And when our veterans come home, treating them as the heroes they are.”

Boozman launched the ad a little more than a month before the March 1 primary, where he faces a long-shot challenge from North Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman. Former federal prosecutor Conner Eldridge is the only Democrat running for Boozman’s seat.

Eldridge’s campaign criticized Boozman, accusing the lawmaker of having a weak record on veterans issues. The votes Eldridge’s campaign cited include Boozman’s vote against 2012 legislation that would have created a “Veterans Jobs Corps.”

“Arkansans and veterans from both parties are clearly frustrated with Senator Boozman’s doublespeak and lack of results - forcing him to defend his lackluster record with early TV ads in order to fend off a challenge from within his own party,” Eldridge campaign manager Brad Howard said.

Caldwell said the campaign had planned to air the ads at this point in the campaign, even before Boozman faced a primary challenge. He defended Boozman’s record on veterans affairs, saying Eldridge’s campaign was using “cherry picked votes” to mislead voters.

“If he wants to make this campaign about what Sen. Boozman has done for veterans, I welcome that challenge,” Caldwell said. “No one has a more defined record of standing up and protecting our veterans and supporting our troops.”

Boozman’s re-election bid is not expected to create the TV ad blitz that Arkansas two years ago, when then-Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor was defeated by Republican challenger Tom Cotton. The two rivals and outside groups spent more than $68 million on that race.

Boozman, a former congressman from northwest Arkansas, was first elected to the Senate in 2010.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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